Newtown's Police Officers Battle PTSD

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 29 2013 11:45 AM

Newtown's Police Officers Are Already Showing Signs of PTSD

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A Connecticut state policeman pays his respects outside a wake for Jesse Lewis, 6, on December 20, 2012 in Newtown

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The New York Times has a rather haunting piece in today's paper based on interviews with seven Newtown police officers who were among the first responders to last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. The account they provide, as the Times rightly puts it, is "filled with ghastly moments and details, and a few faint instances of hope."

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The report also highlights a secondary issue at play, one that is easy to lose sight of during the heated debate over gun control and safety that is now going on across the nation: Namely, the absolute hell that Newtown's police officers, many of them parents themselves, went through, and very well may continue to go through for the rest of their lives after seeing what they did on Dec. 14.

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"One look, and your life was absolutely changed," Michael McGowan, one of the first officers to arrive at the school, told the paper. Another recounted how, two weeks later, he began to sob uncontrollably after driving by a roadside memorial. "I just lost it right there, I couldn't even drive," Jason Frank said. "Words can’t describe how horrible it was," said a third officer, Joe Joudy, one of the detectives who was tasked with the unenviable job of spending nearly a week collecting and inventorying every piece of evidence from the crime scene.

The Times with more on the emotional state of the Newtown's police force:

More than a month later, the officers continue to feel the pain of that day. Some spoke reluctantly, not wanting to compare their torment with the agony of the families of the children and adult victims. But they also worried about their ability to do their jobs, as they continue to suffer. ....
At least one person, Officer [Tom] Bean, said he has already received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he had been unable to return to work since the shootings, and had needed medication to sleep.
The officers and their union are reaching out to state lawmakers, hoping to expand workers’ compensation benefits to include those who witness horrific violence. "Our concern from the beginning has been the effects of PTSD," said Eric Brown, a lawyer for the union that represents the Newtown police. "We estimate it is probably going to be 12 to 15 Newtown officers who are going to be dealing with that, for the remainder of their careers, we imagine, from what we’ve been told by professionals who deal with PTSD."

The entire piece is worth your time. Read it in full here.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

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